Wednesday, March 17, 2010

[UPDATE] Grandstanding at the Rules Committee

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with C-Span, they confirmed our research. Congressman Dreier was incorrect when he claimed that C-Span covered the House Rules Committee meetings when Medicare Part D was "rammed down our throats" at 3:00am. We have reached out to Congressman Dreier's office for a response and await their reply.

Today, I sat in on the Rules Committee hearing. It was a rather arcane meeting today to authorize suspension bills to be brought to the House floor over the next couple days and the weekend. Currently, House rules prohibit suspension bills from being brought to the floor between Thursday and Sunday without the rules committee specifically allowing it. (Why? I am still trying to figure that out.)

While authorizing suspension is what they were supposedly there to negotiate, barely a word was spoken about it beyond reading the language of the resolution. Republicans, all of whom voted against authorizing suspension, never made the case against it. Instead, we spent the hour or so listening to arguments about how much c-span coverage there would be and whether or not Congressman Dreier ran a more, or less, transparent rules committee. In other words, we spent a while listening to Dreier complain that this meeting was not being aired on C-Span.

A big moment of disagreement came when Congressman McGovern thanked the Chairwoman (Congresswoman Slaughter) for running a more transparent rules committee than Dreier. McGovern made the claim that the Republicans, led by then Chairman Dreier, rammed Medicare Part D through the rules committee without cameras. This claim was outright refuted by Dreier.

Luckily, we do not have to take their word for it (whoever you would choose to believe). C-Span just recently finished uploading almost all of their 23 year archive to their website. We found only six programs from the rules committee of the 108th Congress. Of those six, exactly zero were on health care in general, let alone Medicare Part D specifically. Since it is now after regular business hours, we will have to wait until tomorrow for verification from C-Span, but it appears that Congressman Dreier was mistaken. And frankly, to find only six rule committee programs available during the reign of Chairman Dreier is in itself a statement on how transparently he ran things.

In all fairness, McGovern may have overstated how transparently the rules committee is run by Chairwoman Slaughter. C-Span has four rules committee programs in their online archives for the 111th Congress, about on track to reaching, you guessed it, six. A fairly conservative number if we are talking transparency.
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